Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau Collection

Solo en Inglès

This audio guide, introduced by Alice Pratt Brown Director Adam D. Weinberg, highlights a diverse range of works from the exhibition Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau Collection. Artists John Baldessari, Gregory Crewdson, Eric Fischl, Jasper Johns, Glenn Ligon, and Mark Tansey provide additional commentary.

Peter Hujar (1934–1987), _Divine_, 1975. Gelatin silver print, 14 7/8 x 14 7/8in. (37.8 x 37.8 cm) (sight). Promised gift of the Fisher Landau Center for Art P.2010.310 © The Peter Hujar Archive; photograph by Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

NARRATOR: In quiet, black and white portraits, Peter Hujar captures his subjects in moments of reverie. This one shows Divine, a famously foul-mouthed drag queen, usually seen wearing a blonde wig, sequined dress, and garish make-up. In Hujar’s portrait, the public persona is stripped away. Divine appears as a man, wrinkled and balding, resting on a velvety black blanket and gazing into the distance. His half-closed eyes suggest he is on the borderline between dream and sleep.

This photograph was included in Hujar’s 1976 book called Portraits in Life and Death. It features the artist’s friends from the New York’s Downtown art scene and gay bohemian sub-culture. The book also includes Hujar’s pictures of mummified bodies photographed in the catacombs of Sicily. Both living and dead bodies lie recumbent, like Divine, suggesting an unbroken continuum between life and death.

Hujar was an important American photographer who captured New York at a moment when the city was plagued by crime, social unrest, and near-bankruptcy—but artistically it was vibrant. His own experience of depression and alienation colored his photographs, in which his subjects often seem to be contemplating their own mortality.